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Transcender Needs More

Published: 03/20/2010

Questions. Transcender needs more questions. This is based on my past experience with a couple of their exam preparation products, and while they're not bad to test your knowledge of material with prior to taking some kind of certification exam, I think they have their limitations which all potential test-takers may not be aware of.

Some people claim that Transcender practice tests simulate what the real exam may be like, and I guess to some degree that's true in my experience. However, they aren't exactly the same questions (nor should they be) and they don't provide simulations that might pop up on real exams that you're paying cold, hard cash for.

When you use their online (or software-installed) product, you get the option of customizing your practice test experience. You can randomly choose from the existing pool of questions, or you can choose x number of questions from given categories. Going through these sets allow you to see what areas you're strong or weak in, provides a historical "graph," and you can also tailor what your passing score is (by default, anything less than 100% is a failing grade; a bit stringent, but hey, we should all strive for perfection).

For each question, you can grade yourself to see if you got the answer right immediately after selecting an answer choice. There's also a minimal explanation detailing why each listed choice was the right or wrong answer.

While this is all nifty and good, after going through the practice exams a couple of times, it's easy to "remember" what the right answer was since you're in study / raw memorization mode and it becomes visibly easy to distinguish the right answer from the rest of the pack, even if you don't know the reasoning behind the correct answer. This is where it gets sketchy as an exam preparation aid.

To counteract this a bit, their products also provide the ability to randomize the order of the answers for each question. Honestly, I don't think it helps all that much.

But the real problem is that there are simply not enough questions in the entire question pool to begin with. The total number of questions will obviously vary depending on the subject matter, but in my opinion they should number in the thousands. This will make it much less likely for you to easily remember question-answer combinations after a couple of passes through the practice runs. The Transcender prep products I tried numbered much, much less.

I'm of the belief that an exam prep product should really stress test your existing knowledge. Does it provide enough summary feedback as to your weak areas? Does it cover every possible area stated in the exam curriculum? Does it keep you on your toes? Does it actually make you think for the answer?

Like many other folks, I'm generally an advocate of valuing technical experience over certification achievements. Certs no doubt have their place and can help fill knowledge gaps or at least give you a place to start, but they don't provide me any indication on paper of the candidate's sense in extensive troubleshooting of complex scenarios or how various technologies integrate with each other in a constantly-evolving, rarely well-documented, multi-vendor equipment environment.

While preparation products (whether at the end of a study guide chapter or tools like timed software practice exams) are potentially a good way to test your abilities in a certain subject area, I wish the ones I've seen were much more in-depth, lengthier, more interactive, less predictable (through sheer numbers of the questions) and comprehensive.

Go back to my list of rambles.